I first started listening to Death Metal way back in late 1989 / early 1990 when bands like Entombed, Dismember, Morbid Angel, Grave and so many more all came up with their debut albums. I was completely blown away by the energy of the bands and the freshness of the music. For about two or three years I was basically listening to Death Metal exclusively (some exceptions included Bad Religion (of course) and Hardcore bands like Gorilla Biscuits or Judge), but unfortunately record labels signed virtually every band that claimed to play Death Metal, and due to the release overkill I kinda got bored and annoyed with all those crappy bands that followed the trend. I didn't follow the newer bands much and kept sticking to the old classics. One of those bands - among the ones mentioned above - was Bolt Thrower from the UK. From their very first album "In battle there is no law" they came up with a highly original sound that they stuck with over the years. Classic albums like "Realm of chaos" (the first one I bought), "War master", "The fourth crusade" and so on followed and I was amazed by the brutality and crushing wall of sound Bolt Thrower delivered on all of their records. Not only did they influence tons of other Death Metal bands, but I would also dare say that they were a major influence for all the MetalCore bands around. Just look at Heaven Shall Burn who did a cover of "The fourth crusade" and named their first album "In battle their is no law" (click here to find out what Heaven Shall Burn said when I asked them about the influence Bolt Thrower had on their sound). The only album I didn't give that much attention was the last one, "Honour valour pride" because it was the only one that didn't feature original singer Karl Willets but Dave Ingram, formerly of UK mates Benediction. I have to admit I'm a Karl Willets fan and never liked Dave Ingram's vocals that much, so I didn't give Bolt Thrower that much attention afterwards. In 2005 they announced the departure of Dave Ingram and the triumphant return of none other than Karl Willets. "Those once loyal" is the new studio album by the band and it was mandatory to do an interview with Bolt Thrower. Bassist Jo Bench was kind enough to answer our questions, so go ahead and find out what she had to say...
Tobi: Congratulations to the excellent new album! Expectations were high after Karl rejoined the band. Did you feel some kind of pressure when you were working on the new songs?
Thanks very much. Yeah, we were aware that people would expect a lot with Karl rejoining, but we put that to the back of our minds. We just write for ourselves first and foremost and I think that we’re probably the hardest people to please. As long as the 5 members are all happy with the songs then that’s the main thing for us, if anyone else likes it then that’s a bonus.
Tobi: Was it clear that you would ask Karl to rejoin when Dave left the band or did you think about other candidates as well? Was there even a moment when you thought about calling it quits?
We did think about the options – should we get someone famous from another band? Should we give an unknown a chance? We had quite a few offers, but the best option was always to ask Karl. Obviously we had hoped that Dave would stay in the band until the end, but there was always the thought there that Karl might come back, and luckily that was realised. No, we never thought about calling it quits. Never. The band means too much to us to let one person bring it to an end.
Tobi: You´re one of those bands that have a very unique style. Some people even call you the “AC/DC of Death Metal”. Do you often have ideas during the songwriting process that absolutely don´t stand for Bolt Thrower? Do you sometimes think about doing something completely different that nobody would expect?
The AC/DC of death metal? Haha… well I guess we’ve been called worse! There are times in the songwriting when Baz will play us a riff and we’ll say “ yeah, it’s great but it just isn’t Bolt Thrower”, and it will get scrapped. Also there are riffs that were originally written a while ago and we thought they were too ‘advanced’ then, but they ended up being re-written and used on later albums. It’s important to us to keep on the same path musically, too many bands have strayed and lost what they originally were and we vowed from day one not to let that happen with BT. We make no apologies for that.
Stefan: Bolt Thrower is one of the longest running Death Metal bands around. I mean when I started listening to Death Metal you put out "Realm of chaos" and now we have 2005 and you're still here. What makes you continue the band and play this kind of sound after all those years? Are you still in contact with some of the bands/people you met along the way in the early days just like the guys in Entombed or Pestilence?
Yeah, those 20 years have sure gone fast! We always knew it was about survival in this business, we never initially aspired to be a certain size or last a certain amount of time. We just said we’d continue to do what we do without compromising for as long as we still enjoyed it and other people enjoyed it. Luckily we’re still here and still enjoying it, so we feel very fortunate. There’s no deep explanation I can give as to why we’re still doing this, it’s purely because we’re into the music and we’re into Bolt Thrower. No, we’re not really in contact with the bands from the early days, a lot of them are either split up or doing other things. It would be cool to catch up with some of the guys though..
Stefan: Bolt Thrower is not a band that puts out records every year, so I wonder what you guys are doing between records to pay the rent and stuff. Which kinda jobs do you have and how do you handle this when it comes to extensive touring?
We have times when we can live off the band and there are also times where we can’t. A couple of the band own their own homes and have kids, etc so have to get the odd crappy job now and again to make ends meet. Luckily they are also committed enough to give these up when there is band stuff to do.
Stefan: I heard that Karl Willets did actually re-record the vocals for "Honour Valour Pride", the only album that featured Dave Ingram. Is this true? And will you ever put out these recordings? I'd love to hear Karl on these songs.
Karl re-recorded the HVP vocals as a demo to warm up his voice for the new album. We were originally going to do just 2 or 3 songs but we ended up doing the whole album. It came out great, but we don’t have any plans to release it. Dave did a good job and we don’t want it to be detrimental to the original recording. We might put another track up sometime on the website, we’ll see..
Stefan: What do you think when you look back on the old days of Death Metal? I mean I grew up with Death Metal in the late 80s/early 90s and I still remember those days when I wrote to all kinds of people to get ahold of the rehearsals by Repulsion or demos from Massacre etc.? Nowadays with the internet there's lots of this classic stuff available just a click away and I have the impression that the tape trading scene is almost completely dead. What do you think when you look back on "the old days"?
I come from the same scene and I remember those days fondly. They were good times and I heard a lot of great new music through tape-trading. Yeah, I’m sure those days are long gone, which is kind of sad and the internet makes it a lot easier nowadays. I still miss those days of getting the parcel through the door with the Sindrome (Yeah, "Into the halls of extermination" rules! - Stefan) or Morbid Angel demos inside, damn, I must be getting old.. haha..
Stefan: What do you think about the revamped Celtic Frost and what can we expect from the Swiss masters on their new record in your opinion? Do you think it's cool that they put out another record after all these years or don't you like the idea of a new Frost record?
I haven’t really heard anything about it really, so I don’t know what the line-up is or what the music is gonna be like. But I loved Celtic Frost back in the day, Tom G was a legend. It’s always risky coming back after so long, as long as their heart is in it and it’s not purely for financial reasons then I wish them well. I just really hope it’s gonna be a good record.
Stefan: Did you know that Bolt Thrower is not only considered as one of the most popular and influential Death Metal bands but that you're also held in a very high regard in the Hardcore scene? I mean lots of bands with a Hardcore background play more or less pure Metal these days and very often they are heavily influenced by Bolt Thrower musically. Are you aware of that and do you keep in touch with today's Hardcore?
Yeah, I have been told this actually, and it’s an enormous compliment. We ourselves came from a punk/hardcore background and because of that I think it means more to us to be an influence to Hardcore bands than it is to the death metal bands. When we started out we had no desire to sound like anyone else, there was no death metal scene, we were playing to punks, crusties, metallers, etc, and the scene came later. It’s cool to be influenced by bands but it’s cooler to be original. I do read up a lot on the what’s happening nowadays, but I must admit that I haven’t heard a lot of the new bands around now.
Tobi: Are you aware of the enormous influence on Metalcore bands like Heaven Shall Burn?
Yes. We’ve played with HSB a couple of times now. They’re a great live band and very cool people. It was interesting to hear their IVth Crusade cover, it reminded me of how Bolt Thrower would’ve sounded if Martin Van Drunen had recorded with us.
Stefan: What is your opinion about Games Workshop nowadays? I mean they had a cool cover art for "Realm of chaos", but afterwards you had a couple of problems with them, right? So I was wondering if you're still into roleplay and stuff these days?
Games Workshop originally wanted to sign us to their record label, but we didn’t want to get that heavily involved so we opted for the Earache / Games Workshop collaboration which worked out well. There was an issue with the fee of the "Realm of Chaos" cover, but they’re a huge company and obviously had a vested interest in it. No, we wouldn’t work with them again, unfortunately the boss who originally contacted us left the company some years ago so we kind of lost interest in them. I personally never played the roleplay stuff, that was more Karl, Whale and sometimes Gav, and they haven’t played for some 15 years or so...
Stefan: What did you think when you heard that John Peel died? I mean I can remember that he played Bolt Thrower a lot on his radio show back when "War master" came out (I still have the tape with the radio show where John Peel announces "A fine new track by Bolt Thrower called 'Destructive infinity'" that no other than Karl Willets himself sent me in 1990 or so), and I think that he played an extraordinary role in promoting extreme music, so what are your thoughts about John Peel?
The whole band was deeply saddened by his death. It was a complete shock. It was due to his first radio session that Bolt Thrower got their first record contract, so he was very much an influence on what happened to the band later on. We met him once, he came to a show with his wife and kids, you couldn’t meet a more genuine, humble person. He did more to promote new music than all the record labels and music press put together and he will be very sorely missed. There sadly will never be another.. RIP John.
it! Thank you very much for your time!
a lot for the interview. We appreciate the support a lot. Hope to see you on the
a World of Compromise…. Some don’t”
(Questions: Tobi & Stefan, intro by Stefan)